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First, let me say this: not all significant others avoid, or don’t notice, what needs to be done around the house to keep your home in working order.
You may have a partner who collaborates with you to get the housework and chores completed, who can cook multiple meals a week, and who cleans and organizes with no complaints.
This, however, is not always the norm.
In some cases, your spouse does not have a clue. And this ignorant cluelessness can be downright shocking to someone like you who is able to quickly see and fix the obvious.
Maybe your husband walks right past the stinky, overflowing trash can when he comes into the kitchen for a snack, then leans on it when he tells you about his day.
Or maybe your wife is unknowingly collecting stashes of drinking cups in the living room. And in the kitchen, dining room, study, car, bathroom, and bedroom.
Or maybe your partner has never noticed the discarded socks underneath the coffee table, crumbs on the table and floor from breakfast, or the pet hair gathering in clumps on the couch.
And they can all say, with complete innocence and sincerity, “Wait, what mess, babe?”
I can feel the blood boiling inside of you… Resist the urge to explode!
Breathe in, breathe out, and release your death grip on the dustpan – let’s work on this together.
There are actually many useful ways you can inspire your spouse to help around the house, without constantly pestering them or initiating a big, fiery fight.
By utilizing the right strategies, you can create an efficiently-run household while balancing your own workload with some assistance from your significant other.
From giving your spouse fun incentives to altering your own perspective and communication style, the following seven tips will give you some fresh ideas on what to do!
How to Get Your Spouse Involved in Housework
1. Ask, Don’t Nag
How often do you verbally ask your spouse to help around the house, instead of just expecting them to do something?
You can’t anticipate spontaneous help from those who might not have as discerning of an eye as you do!
You might be looking directly at every corner of the house collecting dust, pet hair, and crumbs. What they see is an angry – yet completely silent – partner with crossed arms and furrowed brow.
And no further explanation.
That is, until you blow up three days later, screaming, yelling, and complaining about alllll the disgusting, dirty floors.
Instead of feeling resentful for multiple days, ask – nicely, mind you – for your partner’s help as soon as you see something that needs to be cleaned or fixed.
Instead of starting your question with an accusatory “Why,” transform your question with a proactive “When.”
For example, rather than asking “Why didn’t you fold these clothes yet?” alter your question to a more encouraging “When can we work on folding these clothes together?”
Embody the role of a supportive partner with a positive attitude – no nagging!
2. Cater to Their Passions
Are you dating or married to someone who loves sharp knives or is mesmerized by cool kitchen gadgets?
For an upcoming anniversary, birthday, or holiday, buy them something you know they have on their wish list!
A practical kitchen gift might provide the boost they need to use their new tools and start cooking more often at home for you and the family.
Read our guides and reviews on Foodal to buy exactly what they have been eyeing up for quite some time.
They’ll love wielding a gorgeously sleek and perfectly sharp knife to help you out with some prep work in the kitchen! While you prepare the main course, your partner can prepare all the ingredients for the salad.
Encourage them to use their new kitchen tool or appliance at least once a week with a new recipe. You can also compile a few recipes you both will enjoy eating.
Want to start meal prepping each week? The electric pressure cooker you bought for Christmas will be the best appliance for quickly cooking all kinds of food, like chicken, pasta, rice, and vegetables like broccoli and carrots.
3. Discover and Praise What They Are Doing Already
You may not see it, but fixing the clogged toilet, making coffee in the morning, carrying the heavy stuff out to the car, rolling the trashcan to the end of the driveway, and switching out the batteries in the fire alarm are all small tasks that fall under the category of housework.
It’s not fair to demand your husband or wife to take on more if they are already doing a lot around the house – and it may actually discourage them from volunteering additional help.
In other words, just like they may not be able to see the mess right under their noses that you can clearly identify, you may have conditioned yourself to not see what they are diligently completing on a daily basis.
Take the time to reflect, and even write out a list, of all the tasks your spouse has done over the last week.
It may be longer than you expect!
Make sure that you are praising them for these smaller tasks.
There is no better incentive than recognizing and showcasing gratitude for what they are already doing around the house.
4. Don’t Try to Control Everything
Let’s face it: many of us are experts at micromanaging our spouses.
We know everything there is to know about housework, so when you see your hubby or wifey vacuuming the stairs in a weird way or stacking the dishes differently than how you prefer, we make a loud fuss and usually correct it.
They see us take over the task, shrug, and think, why bother next time?
If someone is helping you load the dishwasher, simply be thankful that you have the extra assistance. Don’t worry if they are going a little slower than you, or if the forks aren’t facing the way you like them.
As long as a chore is being completed well enough, leave them alone.
Remind yourself that someone is actually helping you! Enjoy it, and continue to encourage it!
Verbally appreciate their help – without any persnickety critiques of their housework style.
And you might be surprised…
Even though they may not help with housework on a regular basis, they might actually have some solutions you never thought of before.
Sometimes my husband picks up his dirty clothes with his toes. At first, I thought it was a little strange. But now… I think it’s genius!
Would you want to use your hands to touch the wet, dirty work clothes, socks, and boxers of a sweaty chef who worked the dish pit for the last three hours of his shift?
5. Patiently Teach Them
Without contradicting Tip #4, patiently show your partner how to complete a task he’s never done before, or doesn’t know how to do safely.
Don’t let your surprise morph into instant judgment if you expected your significant other to know how to successfully complete a task.
Let this be a fun bonding moment for both of you – encourage questions, and don’t be irritated if they need you to explain directions a second (or third) time.
6. Plan a Yard Sale
This is ideal for cleaning out your entire house – and certain members of your family might be notorious for stockpiling clothes, gizmos, gadgets, and other supplies they haven’t used in years.
Eliminate the clutter while earning some extra spending money!
Gaining a few extra bucks might be the only initiative a lazier cleaning partner needs to finally get rid of that beer brewing equipment sitting in the basement for the last five years.
And you know there is so much more that you can sell:
Books, movies, games, toys, kitchen accessories and appliances, clothes, shoes, outdoor gardening tools and equipment, unopened toiletries…
First focus on setting a date to host a yard sale, or to take photos and post on sites like Craigslist, Ebay, or Facebook Marketplace.
This date will depend on how quickly you want to work through the clutter in your home – if you can both dedicate the time to work efficiently, you might only need a weekend. However, if you operate better as a team at a more leisurely, less anxiety-ridden pace, give yourself one or two months to carefully work through each room in the house.
If there are any complaints, smile sweetly and remind your spouse of the wad of cash you’ll soon have – which will be perfect to use towards a much-needed date night, like dining at a restaurant, going to a winery, attending an upcoming concert, or visiting a museum.
As a fun idea to save your money, set up an adult piggy bank for the both of you – you can save all of your money from these sales for a bigger vacation.
Wooden Travel Fund Box, available from Amazon
This travel fund box with a rustic wooden frame provides a charming way for you to work together on a common goal. It’s available now from Amazon.
7. Understand Your Spouse Is Not the Problem
Remember – your partner is a fellow human being whom you love, admire, and respect. And your home is an environment created by your bond that needs constant attention from both of you.
Identify that the unmowed lawn, the pile of mail, the unwashed dishes, or the empty fridge is the problem that you must solve together.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing your partner for the problem at hand. With that twisted perspective, you mutate him or her into your personal enemy, someone that you are fighting against.
Keep in mind that you are a united couple, and that both of you will be stronger together, rather than divided, in solving your household issues!
You’re a team here – if she’s trimming the shrubbery outside, go out and bring her a cold drink. If he’s getting your children ready for bed upstairs, go downstairs and tidy up the family room for him.
Read This Article Together – and Laugh Together!
You and your partner may agree, disagree, or completely break down laughing when you read any one of these tips.
Every couple is different, and we know that.
But here’s our point…
If you respectfully open the discussion to both of your flaws and your strengths in maintaining the home you share, you’ll foster a better understanding of how you can work together to handle chores.
Not only will you build a better, cleaner, and more organized home together, but you’ll also continue developing your own relationship and supporting positive communication with each other.
How do you handle dividing up housework with your spouse or partner? What are your own tips you would like to share? Leave a comment below!
Are there specific cleaning tasks neither of you can figure out how to tackle? We have some practical pointers among our many articles for cleaning tips. Read these suggestions next:
- 7 Tips for Cleaning Stainless Steel in the Kitchen
- Organize Your Fridge and Freezer in 6 Easy Steps
- How to Organize Your “Junk” Drawer in 5 Steps
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock. Product photo provided by Amazon. Originally published on August 15, 2014. Last updated on August 16, 2023.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.